Ethene belongs to the fastest growing chemicals worldwide mainly driven by polyethylene production. Currently, ethene is manufactured in large-scale, natural gas crackers by dehydrogenation in a rather energy demanding high-temperature process. The oxidative dehydrogenation is a commercially very interesting alternative and is being investigated since the pioneering works by Thorsteinson in the mid 70ties of the last century. In the late 80ties of last century, Mitsubishi issued a series of ground-breaking patents on an oxidative dehydrogenation process of ethane over the so-called M1 oxide, the MoVNbTe mixed metal oxide. Since then, many academic and industrial research groups worked on this catalyst material for various alkane oxidation reactions incl. ODE. Recently, a collaboration of Linde Engineering and CLARIANT with TU Munich, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and earlier the Fritz-Haber-Institute could develop an innovative and commercially highly interesting process for the ethane ODH to ethene with very high product selectivities, which can be licensed from Linde. Basis for this process development was the breakthrough invention of CLARIANT of the industrial-scale synthesis of M1 based solely on cheap, and commercially available raw materials allowing the production of high quality, shaped catalysts with adjusted activities needed for the large-scale, fixed-bed tube-bundle reactors used in the EDHOx™ process.
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Gerhard Mestl received his PhD in Physical Chemistry from the Ludwigs-Maximilians University, Munich in 1994. Subsequently, he worked as a postdoc and group leader at the University of Ulm in the Inst. of Surface Chemistry and Catalysts. Following a Feodor-Lynen Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at Texas A&M, he joined the Dept. Inorganic Chemistry of the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max-Planck-Society where he completed his habilitation. In 2003 he co-founded NanoScape AG focussing on the synthesis of tailor-made nano-materials for which he acted as CTO. In 2005, he joined the catalyst company Süd-Chemie AG, now Clariant AG, and became head of the Dept. Oxidation in 2006. His interests focus on heterogeneous catalysts for selective as well a total oxidation processes.